I love Destiny 2. I love the gunfeel, the smoothness of the co-op experience, its increasingly well-defined aesthetic, and the way it wrings satisfaction out of making numbers go up. But it’s also a series that can be hard to keep up with, story-wise. As much as I enjoy the thin slices of lore I’ve managed to glean from finishing the campaigns, I frequently lose track of the characters, the overarching narrative, and how my Guardian fits into everything.
When I sat down with Morla Gorrondona, voice of fan favorite Eris Morn at PAX Australia, I soon realized that I needed a refresher. My main knowledge of the character was that a pal I used to play Destiny with often refered to Eris as her girlfriend, who we would go and visit whenever it was time to check in at the Tower. To me, she was the quest giver with the glowy eyes and weepy face.
But for Gorrondona, and for the character’s many fans, Eris is much more.
A Question Mark
“I’ve been really impressed with people’s insights,” Gorrondona says. “People say lovely things. There was one gentleman in particular who said to me recently, ‘a lot of people really think that Eris is dark and creepy and scary. But I think she’s vulnerable.’ And I was like… yeah! Yes! Thank you for that, because I feel that’s true, too.”
Over time, Gorrondona’s understanding of the character has evolved: playing her, thinking about her, and talking about her for years has deepened their connection.
“I recently described her my mom,” she tells me. “She asked me to tell her more about Eris Morn. So I gave her the story about her fireteam going into the pit and how she was the only one remaining. That’s what we all know of her actual story… She lives in her own world, so to speak. She’s driven. She has imperatives. She feels compelled to say and do things. It may seem like choices, but I often feel like it’s because she is being driven by other or internal forces, to say what she says or do what she does.”
I ask her if she believes that Eris is a character who can be trusted. “I like that I don’t know,” she responds. “It’s a question mark. I like that she is so specific and unlike any other character, and there’s a vagueness that we can impart our own feelings about her onto. Everyone has a different takeaway about her. They don’t always match.” But she adds that the views others have of Eris don’t necessarily change how she herself understands the character: “I feel like I know her in a different way than most people do. And I will stick to that. I will keep it close to my heart.”
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Heaviness and Hope
Gorrondona was cast in the original Destiny to voice the Hive, the mysterious species that took over Earth’s in-game moon. “I auditioned for Eris, and someone said, ‘wouldn’t it be poetic to have the voice of the person who lives with the Hive be the same as the person who voiced the Hive,'” she recalls. Bungie’s processes are unique — although the actors do not record together (I was disappointed to learn that Gorrondona has never met the great Lance Reddick), scripts are provided well in advance, which is not typical for recording sessions within the games industry.
“I’m able to spend time with it, put things into context, understand the emotional significance of something,” Gorrondona says. “Which is helpful, especially when we’re going through a lot of lines in some sessions. And it’s often, as you know, very emotionally driven. So it’s nice to be able to have that, to kind of know where it’s going to live in me before I go into the session.”
“There’s a lot of trust,” she continues. “They give me room to be Eris. In Shadowkeep, there’s some difference in her situation, and a little bit of a change in her personality and how she relates with the Guardian. But I have freedom because they trust that I know Eris well enough to just go and play. That’s really exciting.”
Gorrondona has been playing Eris Morn since before the first game released in 2014, and she’s seen and felt the character change over time. For Shadowkeep, she had to approach the performance from a different angle.
“She has this burden literally hovering over her. Her carriage is different. She is weighed down. There is heaviness and exhaustion in her, but there’s also a stronger connection, I think, with the Guardian, in that she sees the Guardian as an ally and she is hopeful — not just for the universe, but for herself.”
Gorrondona plays Destiny as well — she claims that she’s “awful at it,” but confirms that, yes, she has gone to hang out with her vocal double in the Tower. But she also acknowledges that, even for someone working on the games, understanding Destiny’s lore can be difficult.
“The lore goes deep, and I would not qualify myself as any type of lore expert,” Gorrondona says. “It goes so deep that even if I think that I’m really deep into it, it’s probably just scratching the surface.” Sometimes, she says, it can be hard to parse exactly what’s going on. “There’s times where I will listen to an explanation, and then I will have to listen to it again. Because even after hearing it, I don’t fully understand. But I do love and appreciate that there are lore masters who have dedicated their time to that. And they’re wonderful kind people and I’m grateful for them.”
Depth, Story, and Internal Life
It’s clear that Gorrondona is passionate about her character and has grown attached to her over the years. This, she says, doesn’t always happen.
“There have been times where I will audition for a game, and it will be called an ‘untitled game’ in the audition. I get the part, I go into this session, and then after the session’s over, I will ask ‘may I know the name of the game?’ So I will do a whole session without knowing what the game is. With Eris, I felt connected with the development team from the very first moment that I auditioned.”
From the beginning, she wanted to do justice to the emotions of the character in her performance. “I pull from my own experiences to make it real,” she says. “She could be a caricature. I mean, she could just be, like, a spooky character, but I want her to be real. I’ve always wanted her experiences to be connected with something from reality.”
After ten years in the industry, Eris is also representative to Gorrondona of the strides games have made in presenting women. “When I was getting started, the representation of women in games was very different,” she recalls. “I’d have to make decisions about whether or not I would play or voice a scantily-clad fighter who didn’t have much substance. And now, [my characters] are powerful and substantial. They have gravity, they have depth, and a story, an internal life. They have light and strength. It’s come a long way. And I feel incredibly fortunate to have that experience.”